12:4 For just as in one body we have many members, and not all the members serve the same function, …12:6 And we have different gifts according to the grace given to us…
Today, I’ve isolated these two passages because I want to focus just on the truth that it’s okay to be different — indeed that’s how God designed us. Tomorrow we’ll look at our obligations to one another within the body and then Friday we’ll look at the list of specific functions given.
So today I’m reflecting on the value of diversity. We are given differing functions and gifts, or as Bob pointed out on Sunday — capabilities. We also have differing personalities, strengths, passions, experiences, connections and resources, all which contribute to the overall well-being of the body.
The danger is thinking that what I bring to the table is superior or more important than someone else’s contribution. Or even worse, that I’m the only important one. That perhaps explains why Paul began this chapter talking about humility and the importance of not thinking more highly of ourselves than what we ought.
I haven’t always gotten this concept. In fact one of the major mistakes of my entire life involved not properly grasping this. Here’s the story, which some of you may find interesting.
It happened when I first came to New Covenant back in December of 1992. At that time, there was no youth pastor and the Sr. High youth group was seriously struggling. Numbers had been dwindling, many of the kids who were there were demoralized, and the group was far from being healthy. I knew all this when I took the position and in fact, it seemed to me to be an exciting challenge. I was here to fix this broken group.
I had a “savior complex,” wrongly thinking that I alone — “God’s gift to mankind” — was here singlehandedly to turn things around. I had all the credentials: a degree from Moody Bible Institute, six years of experience in youth ministry, a lot of experience growing up in and serving at what many would call a “megachurch.” This was going to be easy — and I really didn’t need much help. Three or four adult sponsors was all I needed to help me. I came in with great new programs and a whole new structure and everything seemed to be going great! I was getting great feedback from the kids with whom I was connecting. I was fixing everything exactly according plan!
About a year and a half later, the bottom dropped out. Pastor Ray called me into his office one day along with an elder and a sponsor to lovingly, but firmly inform me what they had learned — that the youth group wasn’t doing nearly as well as I thought. In fact, the bulk of kids were reporting feeling unloved, unneeded, and uncared for. This was a total shock! My self-sufficient mindset had made me oblivious to the reality that my efforts had largely failed.
This brought me to a place of personal crisis. I spent a week in prayer and fasting, wrestling through how I should respond. Knowing ineffective ministry wasn’t an option, I concluded that either I should resign or that I needed to repent and change my whole approach to ministry. Of course I decided on the latter, but there were many difficult things I had to do to redirect my focus.
Apologize to the group for making it about me.
Recognize the value and importance of everyone
Get more input from the students on what would best suit their needs.
Started annually assembling a puzzle to remind us that each piece is vital.
Pay a fine to anyone who caught me using the term “my youth group.”
Begin to pray for God to raise up 17 adult sponsors to help with the ministry.
This last thing was critical. There was no way I could hope to impact so many students. I realized that a 1:6 ratio of adults-to-students would help provide the care needed for each student. And God answered! Within just a few weeks we had our 17! God brought them forward without a single announcement, plea from the pulpit or any active recruiting! They began coming up to me, saying they felt drawn to the Sr. High youth group and did I need any help! These servants started loving these kids and reaching out to them with their own passions and personalities and their involvement literally turned the group around!
Ever since, having a team of sponsors has been the backbone of our youth ministry. Each of our adult leaders brings a unique element to the mix. They connect with kids in ways I never could begin to and they use their gifts and talents in so many creative ways. No longer are we limited by me! Some connect with the sports kids, others the musicians, some the intellectuals, others the artists. Some like camping with kids. Others like baking! Or shopping! They bring their passions and hobbies and experiences to the ministry and the impact is amazing. It really takes a team!
How thankful I am for the diversity within the body of Christ! It makes all the difference!